May I Have Your Attention, Please? The Hospital Will Be Closing Shortly.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Ahhh. Doors shut. Lights off. Hospital closed for the night.

If only this were true. (Insert dream sequence…)

We all know the hospital doesn’t function like the local town store with posted Store Hours. The hospital never closes. It operates in some capacity 365 days a year, 24 hours a day (and yes 366 days a year on leap year). We don’t even have holiday hours. The doors are always open. Some departments may not be operating during certain times, but as a whole, the facility is always open for business.

This hits home for the nursing staff. Nurses who work for the hospital are required to work at all hours of the day, working odd shifts and functioning at times of the day – times of the day when the normal human being is sleeping.

Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded ‘Night Shift’ or the ‘NOC’ as some like to call it. It’s the shift that can start anywhere after 6pm and last till 8am the next day. While civilians are sleeping, many of us nurses have to work.

Now this is not unique to the field of nursing, or even to health care. There are many occupations out there that work and operate on a 24-hour schedule. I’m simply referring to my lil’ circle of life.

The night shift is hard. Well, at least hard for me. There are some out there that do this on a full-time basis. They live their lives when the sun goes down. I tip my hat to all of them, because without them, we as a society would not, and could not function.

I myself loathe the night shift simply because my body and my mind seem to …uhh…shut down during those hours. No matter how hard I try to prepare I always seem to end up half-empty.

I know all the tricks. I’ve done the research. I’ve asked the questions. I’ve taken tips from the experts. No matter how I handle it, no matter how I plan. I always have a difficult time functioning on the night shift.

The source of my pain? My sleeping pattern. I am an extremely light sleeper. Let me be clear – there is such a thing as a “light sleeper.” Then there is me.

You name it, it wakes me up. The wind, the dog barking down the street, cars driving by the house, rain, etc. Every noise wakes me up. I even have a story about how a kitten walking into a carpeted bedroom woke me up (true story).

Here are the things I do to enhance my odds of sleeping during the day:

• I cover the bedroom windows with cardboard (not a speck of light gets in)
• I play soothing background music
• I turn off the TV
• I make the temperature in the room is just ‘cool’ – not too warm
• I try to have nothing to eat or drink an hour before shut-eye
• I limit my caffeine in the three hours before bed
• I silence all the gadgets in the house (the phones especially)

NOC is a necessary evil I know I have to accept. But accepting it and liking it are two different things! I’ll continue to do my part, but trust me. I’m gonna keep on whining about it

Anyone have a tip or trick that helps you survive the night shift?


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. In addition to the above listed, I take melatonin along with other sleep supplements. They work like a charm. I recommend looking into GABA, valerian, etc etc………my entire day night cycle in my head is flipped and at 0300 it feels like 3 in the afternoon! I can run circles around other staff on nights 🙂

  2. Not so much the night shift but just words from a chronic insomniac. My Dr. suggested this and it works sometimes, I have a specific time each evening in which I can “worry” or mull over things. I journal them for a set time period, then I am to shut the journal, locking those thoughts there, until Worry Time rolls around tomorrow. It does help me shut off most of the time, other times there is no off switch to my thoughts. I also find if I do put the thoughts away successfully I often dream about specifics and sometimes dream a solution! Oh our brains can be such annoying beast, but I kind of like breathing, having a heart that beats, and being human, so I guess I will keep mine.

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